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GM pulls out of Canada's former auto capital

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GM pulls out of Canada's former auto capital

'There's not much to celebrate,' union says of Windsor plant's closure

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 28, 2010

CBC News

The General Motors transmission plant on Kildare Road in Windsor, Ont., was the last of the automaker's plants still operating in the city. It ceases production Wednesday. (CBC)

Wednesday marks the end of the line for General Motors in Windsor, Ont., the one-time heart of Canada's automotive industry..

Once one of the biggest employers in the border city, with more than 7,000 workers, GM has dwindled over the years to just one remaining plant, which produces its last transmission Wednesday afternoon.

Afterwards, the 500 or so employees still left at the plant near Detroit will gather for an informal drink or two at a nearby community building.

"There's not much to celebrate," said Bill Reeves, president of Canadian Auto Workers Local 1973. Reeves will also be the last president for the union local, which will cease to exist after the plant closes.

"Tomorrow they will be assembling the final transmission here in Windsor," Reeves said. "It will be sometime in the afternoon when the last transmission will roll off the line,"

In May 2008, GM eliminated 1,400 jobs in Windsor and announced it would close the transmission plant by the end of this month.

In May, the company's past and present employees held a large celebration honouring GM's 90 years in Windsor.

"You think you prepare yourself for something like this, but until it's actually here, you get that sick feeling in your stomach," Reeves said on the eve of the plant's closure. "And you're not quite sure how to react.

"It certainly doesn't look like anything is going to be coming to Windsor in the near future in regards to General Motors, which is sad because they have had such a rich history here."

GM still operates three other plants in Ontario — in Ingersoll, St. Catharines and Oshawa.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/27/wdr-gm-transmission-plant-closure-100727.html#ixzz0uz0jFa72

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GM closes final Windsor production plant

By Mark Kleis

General Motors has enjoyed a storied presence in Windsor, Ontario, having held operations in the region for 90 years.

Today, GM will close its final plant in Windsor, the transmission plant that was responsible for production for the now defunct Pontiac G5, as well as the Chevrolet Cobalt, according to the Associated Press.

At its peak, GM employed over 7,000 workers in the Windsor area, but has since closed several facilities, including the Trim plant in 2008, and now the Transmission plant in 2010. The AP says 500 workers will be displaced due to the closure.



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GM Canada transmission plant to close

WINDSOR, Ontario (AP) -- Workers at General Motors Canada in Windsor, Ontario, rolled their final transmission off the line Wednesday as the automaker's last plant in the former capital of Canada's automotive industry prepared to shut down operations.

The closure of the plant - which built transmissions for the Pontiac G5 and Chevy Cobalt - ends 90 years in Windsor for GM.

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said this kind of closure is always a sobering time, and city officials are concerned about the 500 workers whose jobs are disappearing.

"In war and in peacetime, General Motors of Canada, with its various operations in Windsor, has been an integral and invaluable part of our city's life," Francis said.

Dan Garneau, the plant's senior human resources administrator, calls it the end of an era and a loss for the community, the workers and for charities that GM has supported.

"After today, there will be no more GM in Windsor and that's an unfortunate situation," Garneau said. "But it's the reality of the auto industry in North America, so we have got to really just go on with our lives."

GM was once one of the biggest employers in the city with more than 7,000 workers. The first GM investment in Windsor was a body plant in 1919 and operations grew over the years to create billions of dollars in investments and thousands of jobs in what Francis called Canada's Motor City.

But the recently struggling car manufacturer has dwindled over the years and in May 2008, GM eliminated 1,400 jobs in Windsor and announced it would close the transmission plant by the end of this month.

The federal and Ontario governments invested a total of $10.1 billion in GM Canada in 2009 as the automaker battled to survive the economic downturn.

The plant closing Wednesday is its last remaining transmission plant in Windsor, Ontario. The company still has Canadian plants in Oshawa, Ingersoll and St. Catharines, Ontario.



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Windsor GM workers punch out for last time

WINDSOR, Ont. — John Papia motioned toward some of the nearby businesses that will be affected by Wednesday’s closure of the General Motors transmission plant.

“We’d go across the street for lunch at the K of C (Knights of Columbus Hall),” said Papia, a machine operator at the plant. “Afterwards, I’d buy my cigars at the variety store and a coffee at the Tim Hortons.”

The closure of the transmission plant marked the end of GM’s 90-year history in a city struggling to recover from one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression.

Its closure drew mixed emotions from employees who expressed both gratitude for the opportunity to earn high-paying wages and regret at losing an iconic employer.

“I’m worried, scared and happy,” said Papia, who spent more than 29 years at GM. “GM is leaving Windsor and that means fewer good jobs for our kids. I don’t know where I’m going."

Karen Boussey, a production worker sporting a “Just retired” button, had difficulty sorting out her feelings. “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Everything we’ve been programmed to do for the last 29 years is over.”

While the shutdown was announced more than two years ago, its impact will extend beyond the workers losing their jobs.

“GM has been very generous to this community, to the United Way and various other charities,” said Sheila Wisdom, executive director of the United Way. “Their generosity has been incredible; even when they knew the plant was closing, workers made a huge donation.”

In total, General Motors’ hourly and salaried workers have contributed more than $20 million to the community, she said. “It’s very difficult for the community to actually believe we won’t have a GM presence.”

Bafel Zora, who runs a variety store directly across the street from the Walker Road factory, will have to come to grips with the loss of GM.

“It’s sad, actually,” said Zora, who has been selling everything from lottery tickets to cigarettes to GM employees for the last 11 years. “GM workers made up half of my business,” he said. “I have a really good relationship with a lot of workers. It’s a good thing a lot of them live in the neighbourhood. A lot of my clients are GM retirees.”

City coffers have also benefited. In 2003, General Motors contributed almost $3 million in property and education taxes, said Janice Guthrie, deputy treasurer at the City of Windsor. “In 2009, that amount fell to $1.5 million to reflect a decline in assessment value and the closure.”

Mayor Eddie Francis called the closure “sobering.”

“It is always a sobering time when a prominent industry leaves the corporate citizenship of our city, and the closure of the final General Motors operations here is especially significant for us all,” Francis said in a statement. “I and the members of Windsor city council are deeply concerned over the well-being of those whose employments are terminated as a result. We pledge to continue our programs of diversifying our economy and to support efforts to retrain and re-employ the outstanding workforce which GM has assembled over the years.”

At its peak, General Motors employed more than 7,000 workers at two facilities — the trim and transmission plants.

The transmission plant produced four-speed transmissions for such vehicles at the Chevy Malibu, Cobalt and HHR. By the time the last unit rolled down the line, there were fewer than 600 workers at the Walker Road facility.

“Time of death 1:40 p.m.,” quipped Dan Garneau, human resources manager, as he emerged from the building. “Certainly it was a bittersweet day for a lot of folks.”

Over the several week, about 122 workers will remain at the plant to clean and remove machinery, some of which will be sold at an auction in September, said Garneau.

The last transmission, bearing the signatures of employees, will be sent to the Canadian Transportation Museum and Heritage Village in Essex.

Jason Easton, spokesman for General Motors, praised Windsor workers for their “years of dedication and contribution. Windsor has a solid track record for quality and productivity. We commend the professionalism of the workers, having completed their production mandate to their usual high standards, and their exemplary community engagement, recently making a significant donation to the United Way.”

Karen Drouin, a line worker for more than 29 years, expressed optimism. “I’ll be OK,” said Drouin. “I’m not doing everything right off the bat. I’m going to take some vacation time, we’ll see what happens from there.

“But this is one stage of your life, just like going to grade school, high school, you move on.”

Read more: http://www.windsorstar.com/business/Windsor+workers+punch+last+time/3334210/story.html#ixzz0v7dKRvLC

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GM ends manufacturing presence in Windsor

By Grace Macaluso, The Windsor Star July 28, 2010

“It’s time.”

That was the blunt assessment of Wayne Zaharichuk on Tuesday as he carted his tools out of the General Motors transmission plant for the last time.

Flanked by his son Keifer and brother-in-law and recent retiree Gary Cormier, Zaharichuk felt little emotion as he walked out of the plant, ending a career spanning more than 29 years.

“Nowadays, 29.2 is my official number,” said Zaharichuk, an electrician who will ease into retirement Aug. 1. “I’m glad I’m out of here. Twenty-nine years, that’s long enough.”

Although the plant officially ends production today, some workers left upon completion of their tasks.

Cormier, an employee for more than 37 years, retired last year. “A lot of people wanted to work longer, especially those in their 40s. It hasn’t been pleasant there the last few years. It’s been hard on everybody.”

While the plant’s closure was announced more than two years ago during the 2008 round of CAW-GM contract talks, the future is “scary” for a lot of workers, said Jeff Charles, a CAW benefits representative, whose office is based at the plant. “It’s almost surreal. We knew it was coming. Now that it’s hear, it’s a little scary.”

Charles — a 46-year-old father of two — is among about 300 younger workers who had been counting on spending more years at General Motors.

“The older people — those ready for retirement — they’re OK. But for the younger group, it’s a scary time, even though we’re getting to a pension. It definitely could be worse. We negotiated a good closure deal, but not many of us in the bottom 300 were intending to go into retirement.”

The shutdown of the 90-year-old plant marks the end of GM’s presence in Windsor and Essex County.

“It’s a difficult day,” said Dan Garneau, human resources adviser at the plant. “Not having GM in Windsor, it’s very difficult for the community and especially for all the charities the plant has supported high and low. That’s the part that’s going to hurt.”

The plant built transmissions for the Chevy Malibu, Cobalt and HHR. During the month of July, GM ramped up production, producing 49,500 transmissions for the HHR.

At its peak the plant employed 2,800 workers and by the time it closes its doors, it will have assembled more than 27 million units, said Garneau.

About 600 employees remained at the plant over the last several months.

Charles said workers will have to make a significant lifestyle change.

“Financially, it’s going to be a huge adjustment, but it’s certainly better than some people going to work, dollar-wise,” he said. “But when you’re used to making what the auto industry makes, even in an ideal situation your income will fall by 35 per cent, so your lifestyle is going to change.”

Workers accustomed to making about $33 an hour will have to get by on about $20 an hour in pension income, he added. “We had a large group retire last June and I hear stories on almost a daily basis on the adjustment that their family or household went through. You’re used to travelling, going on vacation, maybe working a few extra Saturdays to put money away for vacation. That’s all gone, now you’re on a fixed income.”

Charles hopes to find a new job.

“My plans are, I hope, to work a little bit more, look for employment for another five or six years at least,” he said. “There are no guarantees for sure, especially with Windsor’s unemployment rate.”

Read more: http://www.windsorstar.com/business/ends+manufacturing+presence+Windsor/3329737/story.html#ixzz0v7e0a4W4

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Windsor is one of the most ghettoized Canadian cities I've seen. It looks good compared to Detroit across the river, but it's still a hole for Canada.

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